Baby Sleep - with Jemma Munford
Jemma is a Mom of two, a holistic sleep coach, and the author of the DNA sleep program.
Here are TOP THOUGHTS & TIPS that Jemma shared during our Live Talk with her.
Why do babies have bad sleep? Why does that happen?
Babies don’t have bad sleep, we have bad sleep because of babies.
In the early days, they need to feed a lo, they have tiny tummies and if they slept a lot without food - they wouldn’t grow and thrive.
They have short periods of sleep - is a safety reason. If babies don’t go have long periods of deep sleep, it’s thought to be protective against SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome).
The majority of brain development and all the connections happen in the first two years of life. When they’re learning lots of new skills (how to crawl, walk, talk), the brain needs to process them. During that time our brain needs a certain type of sleep called REM sleep (rapid eye movement sleep). This type of sleep processes what we’ve learned in the daytime into memory in our brains. But during REM sleep they can be easily disturbed.
Do you need a routine or timetable for a baby’s sleep?
Honestly, it's not necessary. Understanding what your child needs and trying to go with that, is more important than looking at the sleep plans, schedules you find online and trying to make them fit. Try to figure out what works with your baby.
Why do babies cry?
It’s important to remember that children can only communicate by crying - because they’re hungry, bored, wet, they want to sleep... But sometimes babies just cry.
However, go through the checklist in your mind - are they hungry, rule out discomfort, do they need a diaper change, is there something that you can fix, etc. If all those fail, try things like some skin-to-skin contact (it can really help), sometimes you just have to hold them and cuddle them.
Babies can get really inconsolable when they are overtired. So if you’re finding that every time you try to help them to go to sleep they’re crying a lot, then it’s worth just trying to get them down a little bit sooner. On the flip side if you’re trying to get them down to sleep too early and they’re just getting a bit frustrated ‘cause you’re trying to get them to sleep when they're not tired.
How to place babies to sleep?
It’s really important to place babies to sleep on their backs every time.
Do this before they learn how to roll themselves front and back and back to front - once they can, you can allow them to ﬁnd the right position to sleep in. But before that - always put them on their backs to sleep.
What to do and what not to do before bedtime?
Avoid just before bedtime things like screens - TV, tablets, phones, etc.
Blue screens really mess around with the sleep hormone that is produced at night, it’s called melatonin.
Try to make sure that kids are going to bed not overtired.
What happens when they’re overtired is they get a bit dysregulated, really excitable, they may run around the house like crazy - all this happens because they should have gone to sleep earlier.
Try to avoid overstimulating activities and noisy games right before bedtime.
And awake windows.
We talk about awake windows quite a lot, because of the impact it has on your child’s ability to fall and stay asleep. The awake window is the time your baby is awake between each nap, focusing on making sure the gap between the last nap and bedtime can make a difference to nighttime sleep.
Try a lovely calm massage.
Deﬁnitely, dim the lights as well in the evenings.
Light and dim light can really help to set our circadian rhythm.
When you wake up in the morning - open the curtains, it will help the baby to realize that it’s daytime.
And in the nighttime, a couple of hours before bed, close the curtains, get the lights dim. Even if you’re bathing the baby in the bathroom and it’s really bright there - it can make the child not want to sleep. Maybe use some candles, much better than bright bathroom lights.
Build a lot of connection with a baby at the end of the day, by talking about what you did today together, focusing on 1:1 playtime.
Is breastfeeding right before bed or however?
Yes, before sleep it is one of the most natural biological ways to go to sleep. In the first few months, it’s hard not to feed to sleep, it’s totally OK!
What to do if the baby is sleeping only with me?
If your baby’s really little and they need to nap quite often - it’s really worth getting your hands on a sling/carrier.
If they are older and you want to try to start getting them down in the crib, moses basket, or wherever - usually the easiest time to get them to do that is bedtime, or for the first nap. Just keep practicing. The transition out of arms can be difficult because they wake up.
Sometimes, if your baby is having 5 or 10 minutes of sleep in your arms, and then when you want to put them down in the crib, they suddenly wake up. It’s because that sleep pressure’s gone because they’ve had a 5-minute nap already. If that happens either put them down really quickly after falling asleep or wait about 15 minutes until they are in a really deep sleep.
A “number one” secret hack, just making sure that your baby is getting good sleep
make sure that they’re having enough naps during the day, so they’re not overtired at bedtime.
make sure that sleep hygiene is good:
- have consistent wake-up and bed times,
- lots of daylight during the day,
- dim the lights in the evening, have a lovely bedtime routine.
All those sorts of things would just really serve as a good foundation to helping your baby to sleep.
And remember, babies don’t have wants, they only have needs and especially in the early days, we are here to support those needs no matter what. It’s really worth remembering that babies are not manipulative, they’re not crying because they say “oh, if I cry, then this will happen”. They’re crying because they just need us. When you think this way, it can feel easier to deal with all that. You cannot spoil your baby by responding to their cries.